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For our Job Dreams series, we speak to professionals from all kinds of industries to give you a better understanding of what careers are actually out there. From directors to chartered tax advisors, the world of work is super diverse (and exciting!).
Whether you’re looking for career inspiration, general workplace advice or have a specific path mapped out, each of these blogs should help you out. This month we met architect, Ayaka!
What do you do?
I’m an Architect.
Are there different types of Architects?
In a way, there are. You could specialise your design in a certain field – housing, commercial/retail, skyscrapers, sports venues... Or you could be an architect whose focus is more on early concept design, 3D computer modelling, construction, or everything!
Depending on what you like and what feels right for you, there’s potential to specialise in lots of different areas. For example, I work as an architect for a design and construction company specialising in residential developments, so I’m involved from the beginning to the end of a project.
Can you tell us what your day-to-day is like?
My days are filled with site meetings, emails, design workshops and drawings. If I’m working on a new project, there will be more sketching, drawing in CAD, 3D modelling and design workshops with my internal team or wider design team members, such as the structural engineer, landscape architect, etc.
If my project is under construction, I’ll go to the building site to check the progress several times a week. On site, I inspect the completed works and have meetings with construction managers and builders.
What do you love most about your job?
The challenges and the process of solving them are probably my favourite parts of the job. Even in early design work, architects have to incorporate different people’s needs and wishes, as well as considering the characteristics of the neighbourhood, local government’s policies, regulations, environmental impacts… the list goes on.
I love that by tackling these challenges, architects are part of producing something that lasts and is used by people. The thought makes me motivated to do more projects.
What do you find most challenging?
Being an architect is not just about your creativity – you are also responsible for coordinating designs provided by other teams involved, as well as information from consultants who specialise in planning, building regulations, acoustics, fire regulations, health and safety.
What did you see yourself doing when you were a kid?
Batman, Cowboy, Astronaut, Piano teacher, Hairdresser, Artist… Maybe if you mash them together, you get Architect?
What challenges did you face in reaching where you are today?
The university course was tough – tutors demanded high quality work at all times so I was in the studio working considerably more hours compared to my friends on other courses. Once I started my first job, I quickly realised that the long hours also apply to the workplace. Since then, I have definitely learned how to manage my time and people’s expectations much better.
Being a woman has certainly been a challenge in a male-dominated construction industry. I am often the only woman (as well as the only person from an ethnic minority group) in meetings. However, it seems the industry is aware of this and is changing. I hope to see this positive change accelerate in the coming years!
If you weren’t an architect, what do you think you’d be?
When I was 23, I almost quit architecture to become a graphic designer. If I’d followed what my school or parents told me to do, I would probably be a Japanese ambassador for the UN... I am glad to have chosen my own path!
Where do you see yourself going next?
I would like to set up my own architectural design company and be my own boss!
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first left school?
That architectural education is in three parts – degree and two masters – and you need to work in between before you can qualify as an architect. You get a job as a Part 1 architectural assistant when you finish your university, then a Part 2 architectural assistant when you’ve done your masters degree.
What advice would you give to someone interested in joining your industry?
Be prepared to take criticism – it makes you a better designer!
And: don’t rush! Because it’s in three parts, you have time to think. A degree in architecture can lead to other industries if you think it’s not right for you. I have friends from my architecture degree who now work in set design, special effects in films, event planning, product design, marketing, etc.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?
Don’t let people judge you for your appearance – make sure they know your worth. This was said by my boss at my first job as I struggled with power dynamics and politics at work to begin with.
He encouraged me to be confident during meetings and speak up, and he supported me in doing so. This allowed me to analyse and critique potential ‘tasks’ and turn them into creative discussions, helping me to learn and progress further in my career.
What quote do you live by?
“Less is more” – Mies van der Rohe